Health and Medical Tourism in Bulgaria

In 2004, the number of incoming tourists who visited the Bulgarian spa centres increased by approximately 20 percent, compared to 2003. The well developed network of private cosmetic surgery and dental clinics offer services at prices several times lower than the lowest in the European Union, and this fact has attracted the attention of the large insurance companies that cover their clients’ medical expenses. They are more willing than before to pay for trips to the east, where treatment is many times cheaper.

Plastic surgery not covered by medical insurance also attracts clients with prices that are up to five times lower. The good value of medical treatment is topped up with high-quality service: foreign patients in Bulgaria have a wide choice of doctors and clinics because in the mid-1990s many of the best physicians in the country, disappointed with their low state salaries, set up private surgeries and clinics.

Mineral water treatment

Mineral water treatment is particularly popular among foreign tourists, because Bulgaria
boasts more than a thousand mineral springs scattered throughout the country. The water content in many of them is similar to those in world-renowned spas like Baden-Baden and Vichy.

Some present-day Bulgarian spas were built on the sites of ancient Roman thermae or Turkish baths. The best-known balneology and mud bath therapy centres are Pavel Banya, Hisar, Velingrad, Narechen, Vurshets, Kyustendil and Momin Prohod, near Kostenets. They specialise in the treatment of different ailments, depending on their water content.

Hisar, located among the impressive ruins of an ancient Roman fortress in the plain between the Balkan Mountains and Plovdiv, is recommended for renal and gastrointestinal illnesses. Sapareva Banya sprang up around the hottest water spring in Bulgaria. Narechen specialises in neural disorders, Pavel Banya in orthopaedic illnesses and traumas, and Sandanski in pulmonary diseases. Two large seaside resorts, Albena and Pomorie, offer mud bath treatment.

Most of these centres also offer special rehabilitation and toning programmes. The prices vary, depending on the treatment. For example, a 10-day anti-stress programme, including aromatherapy, massage, and Iye-phoresis, costs less than 100 Euros; a flve-day treatment of rheumatic pain is from 70 to 110 Euros. Accommodation is between 20 and 70 Euros a day, full board.

Slimming centres

Other popular destinations are the slimming centres. The most popular clinic for non-medicinal treatment of obesity is located in the Black Sea resort of Sts. Constantine and Helena. There, a mild form of medical starvation is practised under constant medical supervision, in combination with a daily allowance of one kilogramme of raw fruit, and healthy eating habits.

The stay in the sanatorium can vary from 10 to 20 days, and the package is between 500 and 2,000 Euros, depending on the length of the treatment. It includes accommodation in a four-star hotel, daily doctor’s rounds, personal consultation with the centre’s head physician, the development of an individual dieting and nutrition schedule for each patient upon leaving, and medical examinations.

Plastic surgery

Plastic surgery also attracts health tourists with its prices and services. The plastic and cosmetic surgery clinics which opened in the mid-1990s turned out to be too many, and the severe competition forced their owners to invest in modern equipment, good specialists, and a range of amenities for in-house patients. Besides, they had to keep their prices low.

Whereas in Germany a woman will pay from 6,000 to 10,000 Euros for a bosom boost, the most expensive clinics in Bulgaria perform the operation for 2,500 to 3,000 Euros. The ratio between other services is similar.

Face-lifting under full anaesthesia is hardly over 1,200 Euros, complete lips correction is not higher than 450 Euros, and liposuction costs 300 Euros.

Dental services

Another popular goal of health tourism in Bulgaria is dental services. The private dental surgeries in the bigger towns are numerous, and the prices, calculated in accordance with the Bulgarian standard of living, are incredibiy low, compared to prices in western Europe. Some surgeries have dual pricing for Bulgarians and foreigners; so, check in advance.

The prices in Sofia, Burgas, Varna and Plovdiv are relatively the same: from 10 to 15 Euros for an initial examination, from 15 to 20 Euros for cleaning of caries and a photo polymer filling, and from 20 to 30 Euros for the treatment of pulpitis.

What does the law in Bulgaria say?

Bulgarian legislation grants foreign citizens the right to treatment in all medical establishments in the country. In case of emergency, foreigners can get help in the nearest clinic.

The head of the respective medical establishment has to inform the patient’s insurer immediately about the necessary treatment, except in emergencies.

Short-term foreign visitors to Bulgaria who do not insure themselves according to internal regulations have to pay for their medical treatment in accordance with the price list of the respective medical institution.